A Shorten Labor Government will deliver affordable access to life-saving medical scans to communities from Sydney to Perth, from regional Queensland to suburban Melbourne.
Labor is today announcing a further six Medicare-subsidised MRI licences: in Mt Druitt, Katoomba and Bateman’s Bay in NSW, Redcliffe and Gladstone in Queensland, and Monash Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.
That adds to four we have already announced over recent months: in Kalgoorlie and Midland in Western Australia, Mt Barker in South Australia, and Werribee in Victoria.
In May this year, we promised to invest an extra $80 million to deliver a further 20 licences in locations of pressing need.
These first 10 will all be placed in public hospitals. Labor will award another 10 through a transparent application process if we win the next election.
When Labor was last in government we awarded 238 MRI licences – delivering more affordable subsidised scans to hundreds of communities across the country.
By stark contrast to Labor’s record, the Liberals have awarded just five licences in their first five years in power – including two in marginal Liberal electorates during the 2016 campaign and one in WA as a result of a dodgy deal with One Nation. There has been no opportunity for other communities to apply for a licence.
This has been one of the most disgraceful health policy failures since the Liberals came to power – and that’s saying something.
Morrison and the Liberals have spent five years cutting the essential services middle and working Australians rely on, while giving tax handouts to the top end of town. At the same time they’ve done nothing to address this scandal and give Australians more affordable access to potentially life-saving scans.
MRI scans are used to detect and diagnose conditions that affect soft tissue – including tumours and cancer – and can mean the difference in detecting a disease as early as possible. But they only attract a rebate if they are performed on a machine with a licence – with many Australians travelling long distances or experiencing significant wait times to access an eligible machine.
Last year, Labor initiated a Senate inquiry into Medicare MRI licences, which highlighted the Government’s failures.
The inquiry heard that the Liberal neglect in this area could have deadly consequences, with evidence that a lack of MRI licenses meant children were at risk of being overexposed to the radiation of CT scans.
Children’s Healthcare Australasia gave evidence that for every 1,000 CT scans a new case of cancer is created in an Australian child.
The inquiry’s top recommendation was for the Government to “immediately implement an application process with clear, objective and transparent assessment criteria to permit hospitals and radiology practices to apply for licences for Magnetic Resonance Imaging machines”.
That was more than six months ago and the Liberals have done nothing. This shows they are not really committed to improving the health care of Australians.
Labor’s investment in MRI licences comes on top of our commitment to invest an extra $2.8 billion in public hospitals.
We will reverse the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison public hospital cuts and ensure our emergency departments and hospital wards have the doctors, nurses and hospital staff to keep up with record demand.